Review by Squall69

"...Perhaps the best in the series!!!"

Only a brand-new Final Fantasy game has the power to alter a player's social life and other biological tendencies such as sleeping, eating, and showering. Having a girlfriend during this time period truly presents a challenge. As February 12,1999 approached, I had to find a way to balance my time and be sure that I wouldn't neglect ff8. I can say now after having spent almost 3 weeks finishing the game that this sequel is quite possibly the greatest in the series. This is one fine product ladies and gentlemen. The best thing sinced sliced bread(and peanut butter cookies). However, like just about everything else, this game is not without flaws. For a while, the soundtrack of a new ff game was always something to look forward to. That is not the case in this title. Since the greatness of ff5, the appeal of composer Nobuo Uematsu's soundtracks has progressively declined. Final Fantasy 8 has the least amount of memorable tunes in the entire series. Back in the old days, the dramatic tunes found in ff4 and ff5 would make mediocre stories seem so much better than they really were. Now in Final Fantasy 8, the game can be enjoyed fully without listening to the accompanying music. It's disappointing, but everything else about the game is pure splendor. These are the finest graphics to ever grace and RPG. The character designs are a great improvement over previous games in the series. As things are now, the characters in the battle, town, and overhead maps are finally identical. No more do we look at fat people with ant-sized heads. Things are also a lot more colorful in Final Fantasy 8. The morgue like colors found in much of ff7 has been significantly improved upon. As for the FMV scenes, they have to be seen to be believed. The characters are integrated into the CG perfectly. Transitions from game to FMV scenes are seamless. The guardian force which are your summoning beasts also are drawn very well and their effects are unbelivable. My only complaint there is that I wish the effects didn't take quite so long during battle. After the first time it's cool, but gets a little redundant and slows down battles each time thereafter. On to the game's length which is nothing to complain about. However do not be deceived by the fact that this game is 4 cds long. You will not be encountering Xenogears length here. As far as the Final Fantasy series is concerned, I believe that only ff7 is longer, and only slightly at that. I estimate that with all optional quests taken care of(a must for the truly devout fan) ff8 is about 35 hours long. During the course of these 35 hours, you might even witness the game over screen which is something I did not see during the english version of ff7. In ff7, just about everything in the game was an easy walkthrough. In ff8, you may not necessarily die too often, but at least you will be challenged along the way. I believe that this game offers the most challenge in the series since ff4. The game gets particularly challenging with the end of disc 3 and the bonus stuff. Now on to the important category of plot. Final Fantasy 8 is said to have a theme of love. I don't think that this theme was as done as in Xenogears, but this game does have a great story. The plot is full of twists and turns as well as hidden identities in regards to the various relationships between main and sub characters. Furthermore, ff8's story offers a fair amount of confusing things in the plot just like in ff7 and Xenogears. I say this story is no worse than 4th best all time in RPG's. Finally comes the game play system which is known as junction. The junction system is the finest since ff5's class change. Here's how it works: You recieve a guardian force such as ifrit and junction it to a character. The charcter is able to summon the beast and can use items, draw and magic. Each G.F. has various abilites that can be learned one at a time by selecting the ability from the menu and winning ap points(those needed to learn the ability) after battles. There are 6 different types of abilities: Junction, character, party, g.f, menu, and command. Junction abilites allow you to junction any magic spells you have learned to the given statistic. This means that the HPJ ability allows you to junction 100 uses of cure 3 to your hp stat to increase it. Character abilites can be plugged in to the characters themselves and include hp 80% up and strenth 60% up. Party abilites include the lessening of the enemy encounter rate. They are abilites which affect the entire party. G.F. abilites affect stats for your summoning beasts. Menu abilities are important because they can help you create spells and other necessary items. Command abilites are fairly self-explanatory. The overall system is very deep and allows for complete customization except for limit breaks which are now like desperation attacks when your hp's are very low. Other game play innovations are here as well. You no longer get money from battles. Your characters have a salary based on you SeeD(that's your military dept.) student ranking which is affect by taking a test and other things. Armor is gone - you have the defense statistic which you can junction magic to for improving your rating. Weapons can be bought by combining various materials during the course of the game. Enemys gain levels during the course of the game which means that you can never find an easy enemy to pounce on. As such, you gain levels for every 1000 exp points. This is similar to the Romancing SaGa series. Treasure boxes are also gone as you you can get whatever items you may need from the shops as money is not a problem in this game. All of this may seem bad to some, but it is actually quite innovative and engrossing. Most action mini-games are gone as well in favor of one game called card battle which can be played with anyone throughout the quest. This game is kind of like a combination between war and othello and like chocobo breeding, has its rewards. All in all, Final Fantasy 8 is one of the best RPG's ever made. Quite possibly the best in the series if it weren't for the decidely average soundtrack. Do yourself a favor and buy this game in english this fall. You will be removed from the mainstream of life for about a month.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 04/07/02

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